Today’s topic is one of yoga and money, and the relationship between the two, if there is one.
Most people don’t want to talk about it, but we’re not like that. We are clear and courageous and we’re going to ask some really important questions about money in relationship to leading a spiritual life today.
Is it okay to like money and worldly things?
Can You Be Rich and Spiritual?
If you’re living in a monastic order, just like a vow of celibacy might be required, a vow of poverty might be required as well. There’s a time and a place for that. If you’re living in everyday life as a house holder, as a parent or someone with a career, someone with a home, you need money unless you’re living under a rock. Gone are the days where you barter your best goat and your eldest daughter for a year’s worth of drinking water.
There’s a reason this doesn’t happen very often anymore, and that reason is it was not very convenient to barter all the time. It was time consuming, it was labor intensive. This is why money became created as a currency. An exchange of energy to make life easier, and this is why it exists. Unless you’re going to hide out and go totally off the grid … And if that’s your jam, total respect for that … You need money. That’s all there is to it. It’s wise for us to do some digging around the idea of being able to have a spiritual life and a life where you use and appreciate money to live as your best self.
In the yoga sutras … Let’s get right to it.
In the handbook of yoga, nowhere does Patanjali say that money is the root of all evil.
It’s not discussed. Nowhere does he say you have to live in a certain size house to be a spiritual person. Nowhere does he say you can or cannot drive luxury cars and be your spiritual person. It’s open ended. It’s not discussed.
What is discussed are three key points which help us to govern our relationship with these worldly things.
An Asteya is one of the Yamas, which is the first limb in the eight limbs of yoga. Asteya means non-stealing or non-coveting. Not coveting what your neighbor has, a.k.a. don’t play “Keeping up with the Joneses” because if you do it’s going to spend a lot of the time and a lot of your energy focusing on external things. Things which are outside of you. And,
You are unable to ever find lasting happiness from external things.
Any type of high they bring will always be temporary. It’s wiser to turn your attention inward and focus on cultivating deep contentment within. Patanjali does not say you can’t enjoy outside worldly things. You can’t enjoy a nice home. This is not discussed. You can enjoy it, and you will enjoy it. It’s fine to enjoy it so long as the external stuff does not get in the way of the internal search for contentment and clarity.
Aparigraha (greedlessness or non-hoarding)
Also part of the Yamas. Also part of the first limb of yoga, and the yamas, just in case you’re not sure, are social and ethical observances. How we govern ourselves in relationship to others in society. Aparigraha means, again, greedlessness or non-hoarding, so we don’t tie up our self worth or our joy in how much we have, or how many things we have.
It’s important to note that we need to be in a state of yoga, a state of clarity, to really understand how much we need to be happy.
By doing yoga, if you’re a yoga practitioner, you know yoga breeds clarity, so you get really clear on what makes you feel good, what makes you feel bad, how much sleep you need, the foods that make you feel energized, the foods that don’t, and you get very clear on what you need in terms of stuff.
Aparigraha, much like Asteya, means we can’t gain happiness from outside stuff. In fact, hoarding it and holding onto it will take away a lot of our energy. We will spend so much energy if we have too much stuff that we’ll have nothing left for the inner journey. That’s the tipping point that we’re looking for: How much is too much? If you have three homes and you hire people to manage those homes for you so that you can devote time and energy to your own practices, great. More power to you. There’s no harm in that, nor is there any harm in living in a shack. But if you live in a shack and you’re so consumed with the shack and keeping up with the Joneses, and wanting it to be bigger, and wanting it to be nicer, and you drain your reserves on that subject, that’s the problem. You’re attached to your surroundings.Which brings us to that third pillar of how to govern our relationship with stuff and with money.
We can have the nice things. We can have a shack if that’s what makes us feel good. We can wear tie-dye and Birkenstocks. We can wear Cartier watches. All these things are fine unless we get attached to them, meaning we need them to be happy in our existence, and if they are taken away, boom. We lose control. We lose control over our contentment and our joy and our energy. This is why that non-attachment piece is really vital. It’s fine to have the money and the worldly things. You can actually do a lot of good with money and worldly things, but we can’t get attached to them.
Again, yoga brings clarity, and getting clear one what you need is important, but you have to also flip it. It’s not just about having too much or letting go of the things you don’t need. If you’re scared to open your bills that come in the mail, if you’re scared to face your debt and pay it off, that’s also not living in clarity. It’s not just about having too much. It’s also about walking away, hiding, living in avoidance.
Both are two sides of the same coin. We don’t want to be overindulgent and wasteful, nor do we want to be in denial about where we’re at. If that means denial of how little we have or how much struggle we have, that’s something we have to work on as well. It’s not just about greed and whatnot. Let’s make that really clear.
Yoga is about clarity.
That’s why we practice. Whether it’s too much or too little, we have a choice. We can either face it and do some work around it, or we can walk away in avoidance. Only one of those alternatives brings you progress on your inner journey, and I think we all know that that is just facing things with clarity, one step at a time, one breath at a time.
Lastly, money is a tool. It’s a vehicle for making your life more convenient, better hopefully, more joyful, but it can also, much like a car, can do really good, convenient things for your life, or it can do a lot of damage. Money can do the same thing. It’s all about our motivation and our clarity behind it. If someone is driving under the influence and they get into an accident because they are drunk, nobody says, “Cars are bad, and we shouldn’t drive them anymore.” No. It’s because that person behind the wheel was operating from their lower instincts. They were not operating in a state of clarity and awareness. They made a poor choice.
Much like investing in companies which hurt the planet is a poor choice. Much like buying food and wasting it is a poor choice. Nobody is going to say, if you look at it in that way, that money is bad. It’s how you use it which makes it good or bad.
A great example of this is someone like Louise Hay. She is kind of the fairy godmother of self-help, really. She’s in her 90s now and has written books, has traveled the world speaking. Her book, You Can Heal Your Life, all about how mental thoughts like anger and resentment manifest as illness in your physical body, totally changed my life. Would she have helped so many people in the world had she remained small, and not charged money for her books, and worked out of a dingy treatment room in New York City? I don’t think so. She’s thriving. I guarantee she is not poor. She owns Hay House Publishing. She started Hay House Radio. She has changed countless lives because of all the other authors and speakers she has supported who want people to live a better life, and there’s money involved in that. Would we be better off if someone like her chose to live in poverty, and stay poor, and not share their messages with the world in exchange for money? No.
We really have to take ownership of how we use our money, how we use all of our resources, and I personally believe we have a moral and ethical responsibility as conscious consumers to spend our money and invest our money wisely. We can make a difference because we’re operating from a place of clarity. Is it better for people who are greedy and hurt the environment to have all the money, or is it better for people who really care about one another to want to make a difference in the world, to use their self worth, invest in the right people and things, and make a difference? To me, it’s a no-brainer.
Remember, your choices make a difference.
How you use money is how you use anything, so look at your habits around it. Be mindful of it, and always reach out to me with your questions or comments. I love to hear them.